If they had been scripting this game for Hollywood the producers would have stopped the read through when it had barely begun.
“Hold up… I thought this was the story of a resounding six try victory with a sparkling debut from a talented young fly-half?” they would say, as Bristol win early penalties and drive a maul over to score in something like four minutes.
Why start the story with that? Saints getting sucker punched by one of their known work-ons, the desire to reduce their penalty count. People don’t like complicated stories, the Hollywood execs would say.
Can’t we make it all about Fin Smith, our square jawed new recruit hauled aboard from the wreckage of Worcester? We’ve already done the story of too many penalties spoiling the broth in the Hollywood movie versions of previous games (stay with me).
But that’s how it was. Bears struck first, Saints doubled down on their processes and it was the master lock-picker Alex Mitchell who found a way through the visitors defence.
Fin’s early eye-catching moments were calmly slotted conversions but as Saints moved into a golden hour of try scoring rugby Smith found himself at the centre of a rugby machine that was humming sweetly and of which he seemed to have an instinctive understanding.
If you like those tries where virtually everyone seems to play a part and the ball travels the length of the field then Lukhan Salakaia-Loto’s first for Saints might be your try of the season.
But popping passes short and long, making breaks and launching moves, Smith earned himself a standing ovation from Franklin’s Gardens by the time he made way for James Grayson, who ended the game a try scorer himself courtesy of a cheeky out the back pass from a thunderous Aaron Hinkley.
A Smith pass did get intercepted and Bears earned some points from that and other fight-backery that would have further frustrated the Hollywood execs but that Grayson try came along at just the right moment.
On Friday Saints host Exeter at Franklin’s Gardens. Pics by Dave Ikin